How to Recognize and Praise Remote Team Members

In the era of disparate teams and location-independent employment, praising team members for good work has become a real challenge.

In an office situation, many words of praise are given in passing — in the kitchen or the hallway, for example. Since, in a remote work relationship, those kinds of opportunities don’t exist, the important task of praising remote team members can be forgotten, even if other forms of staff recognition and reward are strong.

Yet, due to their physical isolation from the team, your remote team members may well value incidental praise for good work even more than do your on-site colleagues. Honestly and personally recognizing remote team members’ good work can boost their morale and buy-in significantly. If it’s a natural part of your organization’s (or your) working style, it can also build a strong sense of loyalty and satisfaction among your team members over time.

Here are a few ideas for showing your remote team members you appreciate their contributions.

Tell Them

It sounds simple, but it’s rarely done well. Telling a team member they’ve done a good job isn’t as simple as writing them an email that says, “Good job, Pete.” It requires you to really engage with the team member, and with what they’ve achieved or contributed.

Whether you’re emailing them, IMing them, or you’re on Skype or a call, talk to them specifically about the thing they’ve done well — and explain what it means to the team (or business) overall. I really find an in-person approach works best, so if you decide to email your praise, try to follow it up with a call or IM soon after.

Recently, a team member opened an IM conversation with me to tell me the results of a prototype test I’d been involved with. He told me how my work had compared with the other prototypes in the test, and what decisions had been made as a result of my work. The result? I felt a sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and renewed energy around my client’s project — not bad for a few words of praise in a five-minute IM chat.

Remember, too, that the areas of staff performance that are important to you may not align completely with the aspects on which your team members are focused. Get to know your team members, and you’ll soon find out what makes them tick. If you can make the time to recognize their efforts in the areas that are important to them as professionals and individuals (as well as to you, your team, and the business overall), you’ll likely have a pretty happy and fulfilled team member on your hands.

Tell Others

Happy with your team? Tell the world! It’s one thing to stand up in your monthly staff meeting to highlight the work your team has been doing, but giving spontaneous praise over the company’s Yammer service, through your Twitter account, or another public means, is something else altogether.

Praising or rewarding team members in a formal work setting is great, but it does have an air of obligation about it. Meetings where leaders explain what their teams are doing encourage us to talk up our achievements and capabilities. Spontaneous praise, on the other hand, is usually a lot more credible and personal in team members’ eyes. Make it fun and public, and the team member’s sense of achievement and recognition can be lasting — especially as the individual’s colleagues notice your comments and congratulate them as well.

You may not be able to divulge the details of the praised team member’s achievement in a public forum, but that doesn’t mean you can’t comment on the contribution that person has made toward the project’s smooth running, output quality, profit potential, and so on. Mentioning how impressed you were seeing one team member perform under pressure, or how awed you’ve been by their capabilities, can have a huge impact on that person, and inspire other team members to perform.

Even a heartfelt, personal reflection on how easy your team is making your life as their leader will give those individuals a valuable sense of contribution and involvement — particularly if they’re not working on-site.

One of my clients has a habit of tweeting her impressions of her team’s performance, particularly around project deadlines. She makes fairly general but genuine comments about the team’s work, what’s motivating them and the atmosphere of excitement prior to product release. This communicates her appreciation to her team members as well as others in the organization, and contributes to the sense of respect and vitality in this close-knit team.

Praise Matters

Overdo the praise, and it’ll begin to seem meaningless. But give praise genuinely and thoughtfully, and your remote team members will really appreciate it. When was the last time you praised each of your remote team members?

Image by stock.xchng user roym.

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